In late 2014, President Obama issued an executive order to better track and prevent illnesses caused by superbugs. No, not insects - antibiotic resistant bacteria. These superbugs and new ones rank among the top challenges of our century.
One U.S. senator wants to create a federal office dedicated to antimicrobial resistance. Are they being alarmist? Unfortunately, no. For example, in 2012, 450,000 cases of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis were diagnosed. And, many strains of Neisseria gonorrhea are now resistant to antibiotics of last resort, meaning there are no treatments left.
How about developing better drugs? Only a handful of the big pharmaceuticals now do the work and it may require decades for new antibiotics to reach patients. So, it’s imperative to slow antibiotic resistance and find the cause.
The first problem is that bacteria adapt and evolve easily. Second is the problem of antibiotic overuse. Think of times when you took an antibiotic not knowing if you actually had a bacterial infection.
Critically ill patients are often prescribed multiple antibiotics which unfortunately can help generate new superbugs. So, some hospitals now enforce stricter guidelines.
Another problem which accounts for over half the use of antibiotics in this country is the livestock industry. It’s given to control infections and to promote weight gain, but many countries now ban this practice. The U.S. is only asking for voluntary compliance.
In order to turn the tide, we need better surveillance, research, and perhaps laws, so that we’re not faced with sick children whose infections we can’t fight.
For more information…
Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work
Antibiotic resistance questions and answers from the CDC